Founder of ‘Green Revolution’ Lauds GM Crops

Published June 1, 2004

Norman Borlaug, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for launching the “Green Revolution” in agriculture that helped curb world hunger, appeared on National Public Radio March 26 to laud genetic modification in agriculture and caution against the organic farming movement.

According to Borlaug, strict adherence to organic farming methods will result in more land being cultivated to produce fewer and less-nutritious crops. Borlaug said extremists within the environmental movement have hijacked the cause and promote policies that lead to human misery.

“Without the proper use of chemical fertilizer, millions would have starved to death–hundreds of millions,” Borlaug told NPR listeners. “There’s a big confusion [about my views]. I have always said use all the organic fertilizer that’s available, but please don’t have the extreme greenies come to the developing nations and tell their agriculture leaders that it’s simple, all they have to do is use the organic fertilizer and they can change production. This is nonsense.

“People who are carrying these extreme ideas have never been involved in production,” added Borlaug. “They’re looking at it very often from a theoretical standpoint, not from a realistic one. Had we tried to produce the food of the year 2000 with the technology of 1960, we would have had to have much more than double the area under cultivation, which would have meant cutting down forests, plowing up lands that were marginal because of rainfall and would never have had sustainable production. So what would have happened to wildlife?”

Borlaug emphasized the benefits of gene-splicing technology. “The proper use of genetically modified crops opens the door to using genes that can be useful in other distant taxonomic groups from the animal kingdom. But there’s just a lot of confusion going on, and unfortunately the general public is poorly informed on these things. We can’t produce the food the world needs now without the use of modern technology.”

Added Borlaug, “Remember, … when I was born 90 years ago, the world population was about 1.3 billion people. Today we’re 6.3 billion, and we’re adding 80 million more a year. And without the use of high-yield technology, we would have chopped down all of our forest, destroyed our wildlife, much of the beauties of nature that people who have good incomes can use during vacations to see the wonders of nature. I’m a firm believer in that.”

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. His email address is [email protected].

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The Borlaug interview can be heard in its entirety at